Tuesday, June 28, 2022

‘Hustle’ Shades Ex-Sixers GM: Suggests Wild Blockbuster Trading

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The Philadelphia 76ers are still looking for their first championship since 1983, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from making a movie at the team’s gym. The Sixers are the focus of Adam Sandler’s hit new film Hustle, which debuted on Netflix earlier this week. It’s a nostalgic love poem to all things Philadelphia, with enough Rocky references to warrant a sequel.

Sandler plays the main character Stanley Sugarman, a hapless scout for the Sixers who falls in love with an NBA prospect he spots during a recruiting trip to Spain. We won’t spoil the ending, but the plot twists and turns like the grueling hills out in Manayunk.

IIIAnd Philly-born director Jeremiah Zagar ensured gratuitous amounts of local porn were shot, from Cheesesteak Vegas to Smith Playground to the Schuylkill River Trail. Everything is in there, including a favorite Sports announcer from Philadelphia.

There’s even a scene where an irate Sugarman learns the Sixers are considering trading Joel Embiid. wait what Yes, they want to be the #1 Sacramento Kings. Says Sugarman, “This idiot is talking about trading Embiid? Are you kidding me?”

Perhaps the biggest Easter egg in the film concerns the unlikable Sixers co-owner Vince Merrick (played by Ben Foster). He is shown in several scenes with his collar up, a not-so-subtle nod to disgraced manager Bryan Colangelo. He was the general manager after Sam Hinkie, the guy who burst into flames after the Burner Gate scandal. Sixers fans quickly recognized this the Colangelo reference while giggling loudly on social media.

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There are several references to Joel Embiid in Hustle, but the tall all-star man is mysteriously absent from the film. His only appearance is the closing scene in b-roll basketball footage of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. Ironically, the Rocky Balboa character – Bo Cruz, played by Juancho Hernangómez (Utah Jazz) – signs with Boston after the Sixers passed him. Embiid wins a jump ball on center court. And that’s the only time we see him.

According to John Bolaris, Embiid turned down a role in the flick as they filmed it during basketball season. The MVP runner-up saw this as a distraction and politely declined Sandler’s invitation. Meanwhile, several other Sixers players are happy registered for the film: Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, along with head coach Doc Rivers. There are also cameos from ex-sixers Seth Curry and Boban Marjanović, as well as Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson.

Simmons directed most of Hustle when Ben Simmons was still on the Sixers roster. He could have chosen to shoot scenes with the angry star or downplay the whole ridiculous situation.

Instead, there is absolutely no mention of Simmons as the script sticks to a happy ending. Screen Rant’s Cooper Hood shared the following opinion on the Simmons’ decision:

And Sandler masterfully captured the essence of Philly sport as he did what he did. Don’t you believe us? So the The New York Times called it “Maybe the best basketball movie of all time.” It’s good, maybe not so good…but Hustle definitely commands a spot on the film’s rotation.

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